One of the Rugby World Cup campaigns we are running here on SA Rugby Mag is the Bakkies Botha, Old Dog | New Dog Optimizor Dog Food campaign. This had us thinking, we don’t know that much about the legend…
Let’s start with his name: “Bakkies.” It originates from when Botha was a kid – he had knock-knees. So he got the nickname “Bakkies”, from the Afrikaans bak bene. The name stuck, and he is still called Bakkies today. Many fans and friends have incorrectly thought he was named after the pickup truck bakkie. If he was, it would probably have been a Hilux.
Watch this video from the Optimizor series to see him explain it:
Bakkies, who was born John Philip Botha, loved rugby from a young age. He recalls playing rugby with his younger brother, barefoot on wet grass. “We’d kick an old orange rugby ball around outside,” he recounts. This passion would carry him through on the rugby field, match after match, for 17 years.
Watch this video from the Optimizor series to see him explain how important the mental game is:
Botha matriculated in 1998, and the day after writing his final exam, he attended his first training session as a professional player. His childhood passion put things into motion, and soon enough, he was tackling the big leagues.
He made his Super Rugby debut for the Bulls in 2002, wearing a Springbok jersey not long thereafter, and the rest is history! Widely regarded as one of the best number four locks in the history of the game, Botha’s name has become synonymous with the green and gold. His biggest achievements on the field include the 2007 Rugby World Cup in France, the 2009 Test Series against the British and Irish Lions, the 2004 and 2009 Tri Nations, and the 2007, 2009, and 2010 Super14.
Watch this video from the Optimizor series to see Botha chat with Morweng about Kamp Staaldraad:
A rather famous player, to say the least, Botha’s humility and gratitude come through in every word he speaks, having been afforded many wonderful opportunities throughout his career. “I’ve travelled across the globe,” Botha states with regard to his career as a professional player.
Having lived in France long enough to obtain a French passport, the choice to return to South African soil was a big one. “But Africa is in a league of its own,” he explains, and the glint in his eyes tells of a deep love for his home country. The call to return was strong enough to win him over, and today, there is no doubt where his loyalties lie, especially in the context of the current World Cup.
Watch this video from the Optimizor series to see Botha chat to Morweng about a tough game he had playing for Toulon:
A dog-lover at heart, Botha manages his daily operations on the farm with his trusted Boerboel pack by his side, the dogs trailing his every step. This Springbok legend exchanged the manicured stadium grass for farm fields and cattle, the perfect space for his dogs to run and play. In fact, that’s where his journey with Optimizor dog food began: out of a genuine love for man’s best friend.
He speaks about the companionship they offer him on the farm, always along for the ride in his bakkie. “They’re just like people, man,” he says. “They need to be fed well to be productive.” That’s why Bakkies is a proud ambassador of Optimizor, a brand that is loved for its high protein content that supports the needs of his active dogs. And, when you take a good look at the man himself, it only makes sense that his dogs are just as strong, active, and able to thrive on the farm as he is!
Although his days on the field are behind him, he’s keen to share advice with Morweng, moved by the young man’s potential. “If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that your mind can take you very far,” shares the seasoned Botha, encouraging Morweng to maintain his focus. “Where the mind goes,” explains Botha, “the body follows.”
Watch this video from the Optimizor series to see Botha chat with Morweng about age being just a number:
From the rugby field to life on the farm, John Philip “Bakkies” Botha pursues his dreams relentlessly. His strength of character is evident in the way he relates to the rising star, Omphile Morweng, and we are invited along on their journey as wisdom finds its way from one generation to the next. Check out the Optimizor Old Dog | New Dog video series for more!